Wooden Fort – West of England School – 17 St David’s Hill, (Topsham) Exeter c. 1982

This was a large wooden Fort comprised of thin but sturdy logs (as evident in the picture). It was probably built on a design covering around twenty-square yards (approximately). It was only accessible at one side, which possessed a large front-entrance that did not have a door that could be either ‘closed’ (thus trapping the occupants) or ‘weaponised’ (as a ‘siege’ device) by ‘out of control’ young children playing their various enactments of war games! The walls were about 15 feet high – but this was probably around 5 feet higher over the raised door section. Like a real fort, steps could be climbed to access a rampart that traversed the entirety of the structure! Those of a brave disposition would climb over the edge of the back wall (situated opposite a farmer’s field) and ‘drop’ down to the ground and attempt a ‘parachute roll’ (this often ended with those falling landing squarely upon their feet [spread shoulder-width apart] only to experience their rapidly bending knees hitting them squarely in the mouth!) – usually in an attempt to escape the scrutiny of any (feral) duty staff members roaming the battle fronts! Groups of children bound together by age and teaching class – would take it in-turns to a) take control of the fort, and b) defend it from the attack of competing groups of children! Weapons involved mostly ‘pushing’ or, in the case of the grass being freshly cut – handfuls of carefully aimed hay! If the defending group could be lured into the nearby shrubbery (to the left of the fort when looking out the door), then the small incinerator could be used as a diversion and a means to ‘double-back’! If suffering a major defeat, a disgruntled group could find itself pushed all the back past the sandpit, the running track and the football field, and find themselves in the gardening area – confronted by two bemused resident donkeys who would continue to slowly chew a mouthful of grass! Geoffrey Mann (left) is around 12 or 13-years of age, whilst Laurence Orrell (Centre) is around 15-years-old, and Matthew Leonard is around 14-years-old. Taken c. 1982 – with Laurence Orrell being in Mr Packham’s Class.

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